Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Angels on the River
My five days camping on the Green River will be difficult to accurately describe. It was more intensely spiritual than I ever expected and I know that everyone who was there will agree.
As one fellow camper, Michelle (a she-pirate living in Florida), said to me today on Facebook, "And I thought we were just going canoing."
Several factors here:
Scenery - We're talking jaw-dropping, oh-my-god, wow-wow-wow kind of stuff. Words like "eye candy", "majestic", "magnificent" and "amazing" were bandied about every day. Massive red canyons, blackened by desert varnish, rose high above our heads as we paddled down the very green Green River. The sky was powder blue and the green, fluffy (albeit evil) tamarisk lined the banks with the occasional cottonwood tree popping its head up.
Music - The husband and wife team of Rich and Jacquie make up the band, Small Potatoes, and they were the main entertainment. (Videos to come.) Of course, they were phenomenal musicians that performed every single night but as it turned out, they were not the only ones musically inclined. Nearly everyone had some talent to share. Exhibit A - these two adorable sisters, Heidi and Kristy, from Chicago:
Camaraderie - The first few days we faced some nasty winds, forcing us to tie up our boats to one another, and face the waves together. With nothing to do but paddle, take in the scenery and spill our life stories, we formed bonds. Technology is a wonderful thing but throw a bunch of unplugged strangers together in the wilds of Utah and magical things happen.
Group Dynamics - There's no doubt about it, we got lucky here. There were 20 of us, plus three expert guides, in our Centennial Canoe gang. (Best canoe company EVER! I take a trip with them every summer and I'm more impressed each year.)
We decided to hold a Sunday morning spiritual service to celebrate our time together before we all went our separate ways. We grouped the boats together and floated down through the canyon as we sang "Amazing Grace" and talked about what the trip meant to us. We took turns telling stories, quoting poets and philosophers and generally spilling our guts. Nobody talked over one anyone; every single person sat quietly and listened.
The service was led by a wonderful fellow in our group, Glenn, who happened to be a minister from Texas. Talk about exuding peace, humor and joy - Glenn and his lovely wife, Dottie, have cornered the market. Dottie is hilarious and Glenn rubs everyones' feet with twinkly, smiling eyes. They are genuinely happy people and you catch it like a cold.
By the end of the service, we were all quietly weeping with an unmistakably joy. I've never experienced anything like it. This was no mere vacation, it felt more like a healing retreat.
I spoke up only to say that the last time I'd been down the Green River, it was a geology trip where there were many discussions about what time does to the landscape. We should take this lesson and apply it to our own lives, which are constantly changing, and think about how we all want to spend the time we have left.
I went on to say that the trip reaffirmed my suspicion that there are no strangers in the world, only friends I have not yet met. I just added 20+ amazing individuals to my stash of buddies and I'm so honored to have paddled alongside them.